iMahal Interview Series:
March 12, 2001
We mentioned that, for several years, you were a successful consultant with Accenture. How did you wind up working for them? Did you join them right after completing your university education? What made you choose them?
I joined Accenture right out of university. They called me in the middle of my senior year, and at first, I wondered why an accounting firm was calling me! (I was studying engineering at Texas A&M.) I didn't know that they had a consulting division, which at that time was heavily focused on designing and installing computer systems. I got hooked during the interview process. I saw it as a great opportunity to learn about different companies with varying business models, in diverse industries. So, I joined the consulting division of the Dallas office in 1984.
We understand that you had an interesting career at Accenture, in that you did not follow a "traditional" career progression. Please share that with us.
Well, it started out traditionally, in that I spent nearly 6 years in the consulting division, designing and installing systems for companies in a variety of industries (ranging from Northrop to Walt Disney). What changed everything is that I took a seven month sabbatical to travel around the world.
When I returned, I decided that I wanted to do something less technical. I had always enjoyed the "front end" of the engagements - selling, scoping, etc., and explored opportunties in this area. I didn't want to leave the firm, yet didn't want to continue installing systems. Fortunately, they created a position for me to help start what was essentially a software company. So, for a few years, I helped build this software company within Accenture. I look back at those years as some of the most fun I had - very entrepreneurial, writing the book as we progressed. Given the success of our marketing programs, I was asked to assume a global industry marketing job, and the travel began. For the next five years, I held a variety of global marketing roles, primarily in industrial products and high tech. So, is this typical? No. People do cross over between business groups, yet it is not frequent.
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... I took a seven month sabbatical to travel around the world. When I returned, I decided that I wanted to do something less technical ...
That's an interesting career progression, from system design, to intrapreneur, to globe-trotting advisor. Some of our readers are considering a career in managment consulting and would find that interesting. One concern we often hear from them is about continued personal growth. In your experience, what kind of learning and personal growth does a large consulting firm environment like Accenture offer?
I'd say the biggest opportunity is that of exposure - exposure to different business models, organizations, leadership styles, teams, challenges. It's very fast paced, and there is never a dull moment, so it's quite challenging.
Large consulting firms also have fabulous training programs, access to "thought leaders," methodologies and frameworks. All are superb tools to accelerate the learning process. It is an environment that is constantly changing - every client-facing organization is, and that is invigorating. I also was impressed with the caliber of my teammates.
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... access to "thought leaders," methodologies and frameworks. All are superb tools to accelerate the learning process ...